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They had showered and made their way to Sadamitsu’s house for band practice. There was still a bit of heaviness lingering as he took a seat. “We only have a couple of hours,” Sadamitsu said. “Took me forever to convince my dad to let me use this room for some practice. Didn’t help when Tsubaki laughed when he asked, ‘you want to stick what in the what’.” Hiko noticed that Tsubaki started laughing again, “That is right I am looking at you mama. Always thinking about the butt action.”

“I was not and remember my brother is here. Lets not discuss sex around the priest.”

“Priest in training,” Her brother replied.

“Hiko, let me introduce you to Sune Zenaku,” Sadamitsu spoke.

“Heard a lot about you,” Sune responded and Hiko gave a curt nod of his head.

Sadamitsu quickly interrupted, “Alright, enough of the chitchat. You two get drunk.” Hiko sighed as he looked to Tsubaki who was sitting on a nearby sofa. He could hear Sadamitsu talking to Tationy. He knew she was only doing this because Sadamitsu really seemed to want it. It bothered him a little as he thought back on her words about this perhaps not turning out how he wants it to. Sadamitsu would be disappointed.

Tsubaki’s voice pulled his attention, “How are things with you and Tationy?”

He was certain the question was asked because she had already heard what transpired from Abe, “They are fine.”

“One step forward, two steps back huh?” He did not respond to her words, “She has always been shutoff like that. It took me a long time to get to know her. She does not trust as easily as it might seem.”

Hiko lit up a smoke as he changed the subject, “You said something the other day about an audition. For what if you do not mind me asking?”

“Misala Waichia the fashion designer is looking for models for her new line. She wants fresh new faces. My parents would rather I do something more ‘rewarding’, but I just want to be in fashion. See how it all works and eventually design my own clothing. It would be better to go to art school, but my parents won’t pay for it. I don’t learn anything if it is handed to me or so they say.”

“Well good luck, hopefully you will get the job.”

“Thanks. What about you and Tationy, still waiting and seeing where things go?”

Hiko glanced toward Tationy. In the shower he had been thinking about his fight with Abe and the stinging bite of his words. He wanted more for her then a life in hotel rooms, living off her mother’s money. He thought they had time, but really the longer they waited the more they were just running away from the issue, “No, a decision has been made.”

“Really, that is good news,” Tsubaki responded though surprisingly did not ask for the details.

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For the most part, Hiko was pretty quiet just watching them practice and allowing his mind to wander. If Tsubaki was bothered by the silence she never spoke up. They practiced for a couple of hours with mini breaks between songs. They seemed to be frustrated that they could only choose two. By the time practice came to an end they were still not even certain what two songs they would play to showcase Sadamitsu’s skills; and the source of contention surprisingly seemed to be between Kuro and Sadamitsu. Hiko deduced the pressure of getting the right two songs and making sure the performance for the audition was perfect was probably heavy for all of them.

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After the music came to an end, Hiko stood a bit away from the others as they talked amicably. Music was not really his thing. He didn’t play any instruments or have any interest in learning. They were all talking about things he didn’t really understand. He was almost jealous of the way Tationy could blend into a new group as though she had been there her entire life. He felt Kuro’s hand upon his shoulder which drew his attention, “Can we step outside?”

Giving Kuro a once over, Hiko had a bad feeling about where this conversation was going to go. Even so he took several steps toward the door and headed outside.

Silence lately. It lingered a lot. Seemed that there were plenty of things that people wanted to say, but couldn’t bring themselves to. Kuro had always been a pretty direct person, why now was he holding back? “I want to apologize for what happened the other day. My father thought it was better for you to know. I am not going to sugarcoat this Hiko. I am only here because Sadamitsu asked me to be. Once this audition of his is over, things will be different. I shouldn’t be telling you this, but blindsiding you is not my style. My family is going to take the Kari Foundation and Mikio is going after your girl. Honestly, if he does not take her, I probably will.”

Hiko frowned, it was worse than he thought. He wished he could say it was unexpected, but his father always told him that someday that Ishi boy would be pulled away by his family. It was just how things were in Aslann. If you were Kari, you socialized with Kari. If you were Ishi, you socialized with Ishi. The only exception to that was marriage or unions that benefited two parties. The last part though, irritated him and it was as though Kuro anticipated his thoughts.

“While you were oblivious to her, Semei and I noticed her right away just after she arrived to Sofore. The only reason I did not ask her out was because Semei said he was going to. I guess he never got around to it or maybe he did and she turned him down. I don’t know. Regardless, she is more my type, then she is yours. That is probably a bitter pill to swallow. The power of the goddess is highly coveted by the Ishi and in this case it is no different. I like you Hiko. You are a friend and as much a brother to me as Mikio or Bak, but I am still Ishi. I hope you understand this is business and not personal.”

He always hated it when men used that excuse, “Ahh, I get it, but you are wrong Kuro. There is nothing business about this. The moment you mentioned Tationy you made it personal. I will tell you the same thing I told Abe, if you go near her I will kill you.”

“I would expect nothing less.”

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Hiko thought the whole thing was ridiculous. For the first time in his life he really had no energy to even react as Kuro walked away. How long he was standing outside by himself he didn’t know, but eventually he heard the crunching of boots on grass and realized he had company from Tsubaki’s brother, Sune Zenaku, “Tationy is looking all over for you.”

“Just needed some fresh air.”

“Is that what you kids call it these days?” Sune was not that much older than Hiko was. Perhaps in his early twenties, a priest in training he said. The necklace around his neck told Hiko that he was attending the Anami Seminary. Other than that, he knew nothing about him. “That talk between you and Kuro seemed pretty intense and one-sided. Don’t suppose it has something to do with Tationy?”

“What would make you think that?”

Definition: Rin – The God of Death in several Aslann religions including the Kari religion of Osog and the Ishi religion of Esspersset. In many historical text it was said that Rin was a rival of Kazuma, The King of the Gods, for the affection of Tearra, the Queen of the Gods.

Definition: Oscalpa – Known as The Coupling in the written word of the God of Death Rin, it is when female Tylos seek out a mate rather than have one seek her out or forced upon her.

He never smiled, his eyes darkened, “The Tylo generally have boys. Female Tylos are actually quite rare. One in a generation they say. According to the ‘word of Rin’ it is not an uncommon practice among Tylo females to seek out a mate rather than having one find her. This is called Oscalpa or the coupling. Why they seek out who they do is never really understood, but many theorize it has something to do with the strength of the individual.”

“How exactly do you know this?”

“The Tylo are actually my field of study at the Anami Seminary. I met Tationy early on in her relationship with Abe Sosa. It was because of her that I chose the Tylo. I watched as she spent time with Tsubaki and Abe, pretending to not realize what was happening. How long she knew, I cannot say, but she definitely knew. The two of them were hardly discreet, but I doubted it had anything to do with them being obvious. When I would stand with her and talk there was always this heavy sadness. I thought it was just limited to her until I met another Tylo named Hayato during one of my interviews. I realized then that this was something ingrained within them. This shadow that just engulfs. Look at me,” He said with a casual shrug, “Talking about things you are probably not interested in.”

Sune seemed to be the only person he talked to that day that did not appear to have an agenda, “No it is fine.”

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“Tsubaki said you intend to marry her. Is it real or is it the moment? You have a look upon your face like you are asking yourself that question a hundred times over. Wondering if you made a mistake or what you have gotten yourself into. Maybe not even those, perhaps whether or not you are even capable of holding on to her.”

“Do they teach you to read people at the seminary?”

“No, your girlfriend taught me to read people.” Hiko felt the pit of his stomach knot slightly, “Abe and Tsubaki were always close. When the four of us would hang out together it was as though the two of them were a couple. Tationy was usually off by herself. She and I would talk and watch people. People have tells, you just have to know what to look for. Once you spot them, it is just a matter of reading the person.”

“Can you read her?”

Hiko could feel Sune’s eyes upon him, “You want to know if she really cares for you?” He felt foolish so he did not even dignify the question with an answer, “Tationy seemed worried about you. I understand why now. I will tell you a secret about her.”

“What would that be?”

“She wants to belong to someone. In this age we live in such a thing is considered taboo. We are not property right? It is not like that. It is beyond the physical. Tationy would say something like, belonging has two meanings. The first being possession which is what everyone thinks when they here someone say you belong to me. The second is acceptance as a natural part. Belonging is important. It is stable, comforting, and loving. Tationy has never had that. Her father was never around and her mother never wanted her. The only person that seemed to care about her at all was her grandmother, and yet there was an emotional distance kept between them due to that nonsense with her mother. There was one time she said that someone accepted her. Told her that they were the same. Tationy told me it was the only time she felt like she belonged anyplace. I am not telling you to fight if you do not have it in you. I think most men considering the circumstances would have run by now, but make certain you are doing everything for the right reasons.”

Hiko was still thinking about Sune’s words when he turned away, “Don’t make her wait too long. Girls tend to worry over every little thing. Anyway, see you.”

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It took him far too long to bring himself to reenter the house. When he did he spotted Tationy standing with Tsubaki. He really did not have the energy to talk to her at that moment so he stepped over to the side and was joined quickly by Sadamitsu. Plenty of silence these days. Seemed like everyone knew a lot of stuff about what was going on in his life except him, “How are you after that whole Abe thing?”

Figures Abe would tell Tsubaki and she would tell Sadamitsu. “Look Sadamitsu, I am definitely not in the mood so whatever joke you are going to make, just don’t.”

He mm’d thoughtfully which seemed a little outside Sadamitsu’s personality, “I was afraid Kuro was going to say something. I told him not to, but he insisted that he did not want to surprise you.”

Hiko shook his head and looked away, “Am I the only one that didn’t know?”

“Probably, but I only knew because he told me when he first saw her with Semei that he was kind of interested in her. I didn’t know about this shit with his family until today. I don’t want to be in the middle of this….”

Cutting Sadamitsu off, “I don’t expect you to choose sides.”

“Well too late I already did. Kuro is my friend, but she is your girl. Stealing your bros chick is not cool. I said my peace to him earlier today about it and told him to drop it. We are all friends, but I guess he has made his decision.” How ironic that the person that would support Hiko was the one person not known for taking anything seriously. “Want some advice?” Hiko nearly laughed. Advice from Sadamitsu, who would have ever thought. “Talk to your family. It is time to stop running away from being Kari.”

Hiko thought it was selfish of him and Kuro both to place this upon Sadamitsu, “Does this affect your audition?”

“Not really. I was hoping Kuro would sing because his voice is better. Though…”

“Though?”

“I think he will still do the audition even if he does not do it with us.”

“You mean compete against you?”

“Yeah. Kind of shitty huh? He always told me he was a Snake of the Ishi. I guess he was not bullshitting me.”

“Ahh. I am pretty fucking tired of this day.”

Sadamitsu slapped his hand to Hiko’s back, “You know what we need?”

“What is that?”

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Hiko noticed the direction Sadamitsu’s eyes shifted as he looked across the room. He could see the worried expression upon Tationy’s face as she glanced toward him. He hated seeing that expression. “We need to go over there to the other side of the room and get us some lovin’. Sound good?”

He laughed awkwardly, “Ahh, sounds good.”

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Sadamitsu had found his way to Tsubaki fairly quickly and Hiko thought they still seemed like a couple even though Sadamitsu insisted that was not the case. He stood a distance away, his eyes on Tationy. What was he suppose to say? First Abe and now Kuro? Was this going to be a common theme in their relationship?

“How much did you have to drink, mama?”
“Four or five, I think.”
“That is a good number. Usually when you have that many you let me do whatever I want.”
“You are thinking about my butt again.”
“What are you talking about, I am always thinking about your butt.”

“Are you alright?”

He wasn’t in the slightest, but how to tell her that without making her worry even more, “Just been a long day.”

“You are a dirty, dirty minx you know that?”
“Are you protesting?”
“Definitely not, I like it dirty.”

“We can go home if you are ready.”

Home that was the word she used. They didn’t have a home though. Just some hotel room they got with the money her mother gave them. He rubbed the back of his neck, “Ahh, let’s do that. Sadamitsu, we are going to call a taxi and get out of your hair.”

“Are you sure? My father won’t mind if you two crash here.”

“Yeah, we have a lot of stuff we need to do and talk about and I want us to get back before dark if possible.”

“Alright, I will text you with the next rehearsal time.”

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He had plenty of drinks at Sadamitsu’s while the band was practicing so it was probably not a good idea to discuss the things on his mind. He only made idle chitchat with Tationy on the way back to the hotel. When he finally said anything of importance it was only after they stepped inside and he grabbed her. It was obvious he was trying to contain his emotions, as he gripped her arms tightly. “Hiko,” She whispered his name, “What is wrong?”

“Did you know about Kuro?”

“Kuro?” She repeated his name as she looked at him with surprise. He searched her expression for the answers and quickly released her. She hadn’t known. “What happened?”

Hiko turned away shaking his head, “His family is going after the Kari Foundation.”

“I am sorry Hiko. I didn’t know. I would have said something.”

Hiko found that he believed her. She had told him previously that her eyes were still developing, “He said that Mikio is coming after you and if he doesn’t, then he will. Does that surprise you? Did you know that Kuro was interested in you?”

“I suspected the way he would look at me meant something, but I honestly thought he was more jealous.”

“Jealous?”

“Of me because of you.”

Suddenly Hiko turned to face her, “What are you talking about?”

“Hiko you are really slow sometimes and miss the obvious. Kuro is interested in you.”

He laughed and then when he realized she was being serious it turned into an oddly nervous chuckle, “Don’t even joke that is not funny.”

“I am serious.” He groaned as Tationy asked, “Is it an issue?”

He shook his head, “I honestly don’t care about that shit, it is just….if it is true, then why he is going after you? It just leads to more questions.”

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Hiko watched as Tationy took a seat on the sofa, “Whatever his reason for doing this, I am sure it is troubling him.”

“Is it? He seemed pretty set on it all when we spoke and Sadamitsu even tried to talk him out of it.”

“Sadamitsu, really?”

“Ahh. Imagine a situation where Sadamitsu is the voice of reason?”

She laughed, “Well Sadamitsu is many things, but not at all as he appears to be. As for Kuro, the fact that he told you shows what an honest man he is. He is a good friend Hiko and I am sure that his reasons for walking this path are done because he feels it is right. It was most likely a very difficult decision for him to make and at the end of the day he is still Ishi. In a situation like this he has to divide his loyalty. He valued you and your friendship enough that he told you and that is all that matters in this.”

He wanted to beg her to tell him everything she saw from the very beginning, but she promised she would tell him the things that affected them. That was all he could really ask for. Hiko sighed as he took a seat next to her, his arm snaking around her waist. He took a breath as he turned to face her and realized her eyes were fixed on him. She was still worried about him. Taking her hand he spoke, “I hate asking this Tationy, but you and Sune….”

Her nose wrinkled, “He is like a brother to me.”

“The two of you spent time together though, right? Was there anything?”

“Nothing like that. He was kind of in a crappy position. If he told me about Abe and Tsubaki he would be betraying his sister. There were a few times I could tell he wanted to say something, but instead he just kept me company. We talked. He is just really easy to talk to. No judging. Are you jealous?”

“A little.” Hiko suspected his feelings had a lot more to do with Abe, Kuro, Mikio, his father and if what Kuro said was true even Semei. It felt like every guy wanted her and the panic over losing her formed a knot in his stomach that had been there for a couple of days. Just when he thought he was feeling at ease, something else would happen. Why was it like this?

Tationy’s words broke up the silence, “Did you call Zen back?”

“Shit, I forgot.” Forcing himself to pull away he grabbed up her cellphone and dialed Zen. “Zen, it is Hiko. Sorry about earlier I got pulled away,” He spoke as he watched Tationy move toward the bedroom. “Yeah about that document sent over by Mr. Waichia….what do you mean it is not there? You said you had gotten….fuck, I got it,” He snapped as he hung up the phone and noticed Tationy staring at him. He didn’t wait for her to ask, “I didn’t get the chance earlier to tell Zen not to let my father see it. He stopped by to pick up some files and apparently noticed it on Zen’s desk. He ordered Zen to hand over the file, which he did.”

Hiko could tell how amused she found this entire situation when she laughed, “That is great.”

“This is the worst day of my life in years and you think it is funny.”

“It is not that it is funny. Just one of those things, if it can go wrong it will go wrong. Each action you make determines how things go. For example, instead of staying on the phone with Zen you got off the phone. Which resulted in you exchanging words with Abe and also not telling Zen you did not want your father to see that document. In the end, you are the one that created these circumstances of misfortune.”

“Was that suppose to make me feel better?”

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“No, this is,” She responded as she moved toward him and suddenly dropped to her knees. At first he had a rather shocked expression. Uncertain what was going to happen, until her fingers reached for the zipper of his pants. He jumped, “Relax, let me take care of you Hiko.”

His eyes remained locked on her watching every little action she made from how she undid his pants to the way she coaxed him free from the confining fabric. Was she really going to? Her hot breath against his penis was warm and sent a rippling of tension through his body. The sensation was too much when her tongue ran along the base to the tip and a moan escaped his mouth. Just that simple action he could feel every muscle strain as his penis throbbed and jumped excitedly. He forced breath from his mouth and tried desperately to regain some control, but he realized that every little action she made the more he relinquished. There was no stopping it now even if he wanted to.

To Be Continued

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